Updated: Mar 6
For a girl from Argentina who started a business with a $300 budget, winning Innovator of the Year at the Westpac Business Awards was mind blowing.
"I was expecting a nice dinner, meeting nice people, experiencing this ceremony from inside as a nominated business. I'm normally a confident person but I honestly did not think I could actually win ... But well, life can be amazingly surprising sometimes."
Arena said winning the award was the culmination of two years in business, in which she established a niche but growing business.
"When I created V on Wheels there was just not much meal delivery in Tauranga. At that time veganism wasn't even a thing. Not many people knew about it, and it was quite challenging the first year to get people's acceptance and trust about a fully plant-based meal delivered to their doorstep."
She says starting a business from zero and seeing how much it has grown has been one of the biggest accomplishments in her life.
She sees it as so much more than a food service. She is also passionate about providing people with education about nutrition and alternatives to keep and improve health and our environment. "It's a lifestyle and wellbeing focused project."
She says there is ever more demand for quality meals for people who have no time to cook, but who also want to follow a vegan lifestyle. She offers different meal plans each week and says her clients include a wide range from families, busy mums, busy workers, midwives on the go, and people after a "detox" diet. As the meals are frozen, they can store them in the freezer so they can eat them when they want/need them.
"Also, people who're going through an illness can make sure they are following a healthy diet which helps to improve their lifestyle."
Engaging with the Tauranga community is key to her success, she says, "As someone who came to this country six years ago speaking basic English, I have to say the support in New Zealand is incredible. The endorsement of the community, promoting, buying, offering help and networking with other businesses owners, it has made a significant positive difference along the way."
She likes to see her business as "disruptive innovation".
"V on Wheels is a pioneer in this market in New Zealand. Also, the delivery service wasn't popular before I started offering it. Nowadays, most of the food businesses in Tauranga are offering delivery option even when it is not the main service they provide."
Her next goal is to offer nationwide delivery.